When Kevin Love wrote an essay for The Players' Tribune in 2018 detailing his experience with anxiety and a panic attack on the court, it changed the way the NBA viewed the need for mental health services for players. Now, he received the esteemed Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2020 ESPY Awards for his advocacy. "In light of all that's going on in our country today, I accept this award as both an honor and a challenge," he said during the award show. "A challenge to not only continue on my path, but to push beyond it and stay vocal even when silence feels safer."
Love's poignant essay two years ago raised the question of why sports leagues have top-of-the-line medial professionals on standby to help with all types of physical injuries, but at the time, no required system in place to deal with emotional struggles, which is just as critical in a player's ability to conduct themselves on the court. While the 2019-2020 NBA season has been on hold since March due to coronavirus, the NBA previously implemented mental health guidelines requiring that teams have their own licensed professionals available, as well as a licensed psychiatrist available as needed.
"It is an absolute honor to receive this award and I am incredibly humbled by it," the Cleveland Cavaliers forward said in a statement ahead of the event on Sunday. "In telling my story, if I can help just one child that is suffering to make sense of what they are experiencing, I know my efforts have been worth it. And I hope one day we are able to erase the stigma around mental illness, starting with public conversations around mental health and encouraging people to seek help when they need it, followed by research, action, and change."
Not only has he greatly contributed to the conversation of erasing the stigma surrounding mental health for professional athletes, but Love has also dedicated his time off the court to his organization, The Kevin Love Fund, which "strives to inspire people to live their healthiest lives while providing the tools to achieve physical and emotional well being." Past recipients of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award have included Billie Jean King, Bill Russell, the survivors of sexual abuse under USA Gymnastics, Caitlyn Jenner, Muhammad Ali, and more. Congratulations on the much-deserved honor, K. Love!